Balancing Act

At the foundation of every good golf swing is good balance. Maintain your balance and you can deliver the clubhead to the ball with both speed and accuracy. Lose your balance and your swing loses its tempo, or rhythm, and falls apart.

An advanced player can swing each club in their bag with the same consistent tempo because they're capable of maintaining their balance throughout the swing. A poorer player tends to swing out of their natural tempo with their longest clubs, usually by swinging too fast. This is often caused by increased tension, but is usually the result of trying to pick up more clubhead speed. In either case, you're likely to lose your balance and any chance for solid contact.

To find the correct balance, it's essential to know where your weight should be during the swing. Following are three balance checkpoints during the swing, as well as drills to help you feel the correct balance and more solid shots.

ADDRESS
At address, your weight should be balanced equally over the insteps of both feet -- not toward the heels or the toes. This puts you in an athletic, ready position, like a tennis player awaiting serve. From this dynamic position, your body is ready to quickly move in any direction.

If your weight falls on your toes, the clubhead will tend to start outside the target line. If your weight rests on your heels, the path will tend to be too inside. Neither path is conducive to generating much clubhead speed or consistent contact.

To check your balance at address, simply jump straight up in the air (top left). If you're in balance, you should land comfortably on both feet (top right) without falling forward or backward.

TOP OF SWING
As your upper body coils, about 90 percent of your weight shifts over the right side. It's imperative to maintain a good right knee flex. Many golfers lose their balance because of tension in their legs. They tighten their knees, which forces the right knee to straighten at the top of the backswing, leading to a reverse-pivot.

At the top of the backswing, your balance point is over the middle of your right foot. If it is, you should be able to lift your left leg completely off the ground and hold the position to a count of three, without wavering.

FINISH
On the follow-through, the swing's momentum should carry you to a full, balanced position, with almost all of your weight over your left foot. As your upper body unwinds, your shoulders should finish over your left leg, almost at a right angle to the leg. If your shoulders are leaning backwards at the finish, it's very difficult to remain balanced.

Your finish helps dictate your swing. Finish in balance and it's a good bet your entire swing was in balance. If you're stumbling at the finish, chances are your rhythm and timing are off, and the shot less than satisfying.

DANCE DRILL

To feel where your balance should be at the top of your swing and at the finish, try the following. From a position at the top of your backswing, lift your left foot off the ground, balancing your weight over your right leg. Then swing to the finish, lifting your right foot off the ground as your body rotates through the shot. Your weight should now be over your left leg. If you can do this drill without losing a step, you're well on your way to a balanced swing.

NO PEEK DRILL


Find a safe spot on the driving range and take your normal swing, eyes open and focused on the target. Do not contact the ball. Then make the same swing blindfolded (or at least with your eyes closed). Finally, step up to the ball and try to hit it without looking.

Believe it or not, I've seen some great shots with the eyes closed. Why? Because when you're unable to see the flight of the ball, it's much easier to sense any disturbance in balance. You'll know right away if you're swinging the club too fast to control. When your vision is taken away, you begin to sense balance internally.

Try this drill several times, concentrating on maintaining balance. Once you become proficient hitting in the dark, try to maintain the same tempo with your eyes open.

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